People feeling threatened by vegetarianism care less about animals

People feeling threatened by vegetarianism care less about animals
Cows at ease. Credit: Leszek Leszczynski CC BY 2.0

New research suggests that if people perceive the rise of vegetarianism as a threat to their way of life they are more likely to care less for some animals.

Researchers from the University's School of Psychology and Brock University in Canada studied the impact of human supremacy beliefs and on whether people feel moral concern for , ranging from those normally considered to be pets, such as cats and dogs, through to those reared for eating, such as pigs and cows, and wild animals.

Moral obligation towards animals varies widely as a function of how an animal is perceived, its functional role in society, and its relationship with humans. The vast majority of respondents (90 percent) felt morally obliged to show concern for the welfare and interests of dogs (a companion animal), but only 51 percent felt the same about pigs (a food animal).

The study, involving participants in the US, found that both human supremacy beliefs and a perceived vegetarianism are important in explaining why some people morally exclude animals.

The results demonstrated that stronger human supremacy beliefs and vegetarianism threat predicted the inclusion of fewer animals in individuals' moral circles over a reasonably large time interval.

More specifically, human supremacy beliefs predicted moral exclusion of all animal categories under investigation. That is, the stronger the dominance beliefs the more likely appealing (e.g., chimps) and unappealing (e.g., snakes) wild animals, companion animals (e.g., dogs), and food animals (e.g., pigs) would be morally excluded.

However, the effects of vegetarianism threat were more specific and only emerged for certain animal categories. Stronger vegetarianism threat predicted lesser moral inclusion of food animals, but not of companion animals and unappealing animals.

"Longitudinal Effects of Human Supremacy Beliefs and Vegetarianism Threat on Moral Exclusion (vs. Inclusion) of Animals" is published in the journal European Journal of Social Psychology.

Explore further

Is there a link between your pets and your food choices?

More information: Ana C. Leite et al. Longitudinal effects of human supremacy beliefs and vegetarianism threat on moral exclusion (vs. inclusion) of animals, European Journal of Social Psychology (2018). DOI: 10.1002/ejsp.2497
Provided by University of Kent
Citation: People feeling threatened by vegetarianism care less about animals (2018, June 20) retrieved 20 June 2019 from
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.

Feedback to editors

User comments

Jun 20, 2018
One can suspect some questionable methodology in this "study".
For example, if it's accepted that animals are here for human use, then necessarily raising them above the level of humans is out of the question, and accepting that they have a place can be expected. As for mistreating certain animals, does that come from accepting an omnivore diet, or is the willingness to kill animals the outgrowth of contempt for them?
Note, vegetarians have an equally dismissive attitude toward plants! They'll eat any plant for nutrition. And how far is their insistence on plants "not having a face" from the tendency of a sociopath to kill if they can't see the face of their victim? Life means nothing to vegetarians, just if they are being looked at by accusing eyes.
And relate this to the face that, for the most part, it seems, vegetarians embrace condemning wearing fur, but easily accept abortion by craven whim, the real name for "abortion on demand".

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more